Paratriathlon’s debut got off to a golden start on the Copacabana earlier today as GB’s Andy Lewis took gold in the PT2 category ahead of race favourite Michele Ferrarin of Italy. Fourth onto the 22km four-lap bike course, he quickly made up ground to start the 5km two-lap run in silver-medal position.
“I came onto the last lap of the run and I had [Moroccan] Mohamad Lahna in front of me,” Lewis told 220 at the line. “So I went past him and then he sat behind me. I could just hear his blade tapping the floor and I just thought I’ve got to get away from this guy. I look up and see Ferrarin had a penalty and that was my motivation to go.”
The Paralympic win for Lewis tops off a phenomenal year for the 33-year-old, who also took the European and world titles.
“Coming into this race today I had massive doubts about whether I could get on that podium. I just didn’t feel it while we were in [the holding camp] Belo. I just wanted to race, from the moment we arrived here, and to be told I had to hold in a camp, mentally it was tough. But coming here, and getting a medal is just incredible.”
Fellow PT2er and teammate Ryan Taylor finished sixth out of the 10-strong category, and was upbeat at the finish line despite trailing the 750m swim by 4:22secs on the then leader Mark Barr (USA): “If my swim was much better I’d have been closer [to the leaders]. I know I’ve got the edge on them on the bike and run but it’s just the swim I was lacking.”
As for his fellow teammate and now Paralympic gold medallist: “Andy’s just awesome, I couldn’t be more pleased for him. This guy is so supportive of me, and has helped push me along. He just deserves this so much.”
Speaking to Lewis’s coach Steve Casson after the medal ceremony he commented: “It was an absolutely fantastic delivery by Andy today. He has ups and downs on the lead-in to a race like this but between us we know he’s going to put it together on the day, and that’s absolute what he did. He didn’t panic, he knew some of the stronger athletes would come past him on the bike, and he just had to stick to his plan and finish off with a great run, which he’s always capable of doing. We had a few choice words while he was out on the course but that’s what he asked me to do! It gets him fired up.”
Peasgood swims good
The PT4 category was actually the first off the pontoon, at 10am local time, 3mins ahead of PT2. And it was GB’s George Peasgood who took the race to the field, exiting in 9:41mins, 33secs ahead of the next athlete.
“I managed to get a bit more away on the swim than expected,” admitted Peasgood at the line. “I was really surprised that I was out on my own. Coming out was absolutely insane, and I took it all in and enjoyed the moment.”
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Peasgood held the lead until the third lap of the bike leg, when race favourite and reining world and European champion Martin Schulz overtook the 19-year-old Brit for first… which he would never relinquish, becoming the first Paralympic paratriathlon medallist.
On his weakest discipline, the run, Peasgood would drop to seventh.
“I knew Martin Schulz was going to come past at some point, but I needed to focus on myself and not get caught up in the situation going onto the run. The run was hard as it got hotter and hotter, but I enjoyed it.
“Last year [at the Test Event] I came sixth with a couple of people missing, and I wanted to come as close as possible today.”
Teammate David Hill finished 10th: “It was just incredible to cross that finish line, to be honest with you. It’s been an incredible journey to get here. This time last year it was looking quite doubtful that I’d be able to compete here. So right now I’m just feeling extremely grateful and incredibly thankful for all the support I’ve received from British Triathlon and friends and family from back home. Very tough conditions today but made a lot easier by all the crowds.”
Starting at 11:20am, the final race of the day saw the wheelchair category take to the Copacabana course. While Joe Townsend and Phil Hogg both had stellar races to finish sixth and eighth, respectively, the day belonged to Team Netherlands, as Jetze Plat led from the start to finish with a whopping 1:59min margin over teammate Geert Schipper.
Yet even if Hogg had finished last, nothing could have defused his enthusiasm for the race, cheering and waving to crowd down the finish chute as if he’d just won.
“I’m feeling absolutely awesome,” he beamed at the finish. “I actually feel like a Paralympian now, I’ve not felt like that until crossing that line. Talking to you now, I’m getting goose bumps and this is something that will stay with me forever. Four years’ worth of training, that was my time to shine and say thank you to everyone who’s believed in me.”
As for the race itself: “I had a solid race, eighth is not the best in the world. But you know what I can put my hand on my heart and say I did everything to plan, from the days leading up to the race to the crossing the line. My processes were right and I felt absolutely confident throughout the race.”
Unfortunately Townsend was taken away at the finish line due to severe heat exhaustion, but was declared fit and well soon after.
For full results head here and for a full report and exclusive imagery from today’s and tomorrow’s women’s events, check out the November issue of 220, on sale 11 October.